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The Trump Era and The Socialist Tide in the USA

An accumulation of uncertainties as to the next steps of the US ruling elite has been provoking incessant global apprehension. Almost two years after the shocking victory, the strategic sense of Donald Trump’s actions remains difficult for mainstream analysts to understand. Several oscillations can be observed in the discourse sustained by the White House; all positioning appears to be a distraction, no polemic can be suffocated with an efficient outcome. The list of extravagant episodes in foreign policy is enormous: the friendly meeting with Putin in Helsinki, the détente with Kim Jong-Un, the unrest with the Canadian government at the G7 summit, the harsh words against its traditional European allies at the NATO meeting, the transfer of the American embassy to Jerusalem, the trade war with Beijing, The rupture of the nuclear agreement with Iran, the fall of his arm with Erdogan in Turkey, the withdrawal of the United States from the UN Human Rights Council… This confirms a profile of incendiary leadership, which plays the leading role in new chapters of a grotesque international novel every week.

The structural basis that conditions Trump’s explosive action is related to the collapse of a commercial logic that organized international exchanges in the ascending period of neoliberal globalization. The crisis of 2008 and the loss of industrial traction in the advanced Western economies opened the way for disruptive movements that were expressed at the ballot box with the majority option of the British for divorce with the EU on the arrival of the populist right to the government of some nations of the Old Continent (Italy, Austria, Hungary, etc.), and the election of Trump himself. A new global arrangement of the main economic forces has not yet crystallized. One of the few consolidated situations so far is the emergence of China as the largest long-term geopolitical enemy of the United States in a battle in which we have already witnessed all sorts of protectionist tools being put in place, in addition to the military movements in the Pacific region. The productivity gains presented by the Asian economies (whose influence, on the other hand, is gradually expanding across the globe with the export of capital to Europe, Africa and Latin America) will be a constant threat to American power in this century.

For those who became accustomed to the role of world sheriff played by the United States, the progressive loss of the Empire’s capacity to sustain its adventures and interventionist projects, aligned with the interests of the transnational businesses of its industrial-military complex, is striking. The decline of its hegemony is clear, following the frustration of the priority objectives of its military incursions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Trump’s extreme moral malleability only complicates this picture of deterioration of the prestige of American institutions vis-à-vis the international community. It is not surprising, therefore, that Trump’s rejection rates in foreign countries are so high. Recently, his diplomatic visit to Britain enabled massive demonstrations in the streets, where the giant balloon of a “Trump baby” showed how the self-centred and vain personality of the US president is evil in the world.

At the same time, Trump preserves its popular base of support in the United States. As we noted in the opening paragraph, the turbulence his government went through was countless; however, Trump has the backing of an expressive layer of the American electorate. The relative economic growth achieved this year (close to 3%, according to projections) has caused the lowest unemployment rates (3.8%) in the last two decades. This material reality, significantly better than the one experienced during the previous government, protects the unscrupulous billionaire from losing the part of the electorate that elected him. That is to say, twenty months after its possession in 2017, Trump did not see the plot of approximately 40% of Americans giving discharge, in which despite their misogynistic, xenophobic, racist and unpredictable behaviour, dehydrate. The latest primaries for the midterm elections indicate that the Republican Party is increasingly under Trump’s control: no fewer than fourteen Trump-backed reactionary candidates won fifteen internal disputes. Reports with the base of the conservative party reveal that their waving flags have already become the majority line of the American right.

Programmatically, billionaires and large corporations have no reason to complain to their government, as they have been presented with massive tax cuts and widespread deregulation. However, Trump is far from having the sympathy of media agreement. Its aggressiveness against “minorities” hinders the strategy of capitalization of identity patterns by “progressive neoliberalism”. On the ground floor, refugees and immigrants suffer from restrictive measures of movement and permanence, while the poorest citizens resent the cutting off of social programs. Ultra-nationalism has been an instrument of Trump to bring together the most backward sectors of the white working class that support him.

The most immediate side effect of this right-wing neo-populism is the worsening of the cultural and political contradictions in American society. As we will see below, the space for a radical counterpoint with mass influence is also widening. The Socialists had not had such an impact in the most important country of Western capitalism for a long time.

The response of the Socialists

The crisis of global capitalism in 2008, as well as the frustration with the promises broken by the Barack Obama phenomenon, was the gateway for American youth to begin a new cycle of social struggles, with the primary focus on Wall Street greed. The wave of the Occupiers in 2011, tuned in to the outraged Spaniards and Arab spring revolutionaries, would be revived a few years later by Senator Bernie Sanders’ meteoric campaign in the Democratic Party’s presidential primaries. The veteran Vermont congressman regained the appeal of the socialist cause (slandered for years by the establishment and muddied by demands to re-compose the state’s protective net (Medicare for All, free public university for all, minimum wage of 15 dollars an hour) in the eyes of the progressive youth of the United States).

With the “collapse of the centre”, diagnosed by the work of I. Wallerstein, there was also a radicalisation to the left of the American electorate. Faced with the inability of the liberals to defeat the Donald Trump project, the search for anti-capitalist solutions that give practical consequence to the discourse of opposition to trumpist barbarism is growing. The insensitivity of the Democratic Party bureaucracy to the urgent needs of American workers made the word “socialism” no longer a repulsive monster for most Americans. Recent Gallup Institute research with Democratic Party supporters shows that 57% of respondents have a positive view of the word “socialism”, while 47% of respondents in the same universe welcome the word “capitalism” (a decline of 9% compared to the same survey in 2016). Incidentally, among young people aged 18 to 29, the prestige of the word “capitalism” declined from 68% to 45% over an 8-year period. Organizationally, this ideological advance in the consciousness of the American masses is translated into the expressive increase of new affiliates and militants of the socialist left groups. From 2015, DSA had an incredible jump from 5000 members to 45,000 members.

Bernie Sanders – and everything he stands for – has become a serious problem for the Democratic establishment. Until then, accustomed to dealing with parliamentarians pretending to be the Democratic left (for example, Elizabeth Warren), the establishment has difficulty in neutralizing Sanders, as he raises a program (Medicare for All, public university for all, minimum wage of 15 dollars / hour, etc.) whose logical consequence would lead to a break-up of the party. If this process of strengthening the socialists in the United States is deepened, Sanders will have built up the strength for the great lawsuit of 2020, when Trump and his men will be tried at the polls. Therefore, a strategic mistake to avoid at this point is the confusion with Warren’s wing.

The primaries for the midterm elections have been a good example of this phase of dissent in the Democratic Party. In California and NY (two traditional strongholds of the Democratic electorate), the left made significant progress. In New York, former Puerto Rican-born waitress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Our Revolution) defeated a powerful congresswoman linked to the Democratic establishment, considered until future opposition leadership in the next term. This major victory, of which DSA was a part, increased interest in its structure, as shown by a large number of articles and news items in the major American and international press. On September 13, actress Cynthia Nixon (the “Miranda” of the television series Sex and the City) will compete, with the support of the DSA, for the Democratic Party’s state nomination against the current governor Andre Cuomo, who is seeking re-election.

In Brazil, the Folha de SP on July 23, a report by the Associated Press, concluded that “democratic socialism has become a significant force in democratic politics. The fact that DSA spokespersons are the champions of the defense of popular flags-as public health for all, a minimum hourly wage of $15 (twice the current national rate), free faculties, and the abolition of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) body, gives them growing acceptance, all the more so because they distance themselves from money from the corporate lobby.

Clearly, like almost every real political process under construction, the emergence of democratic socialism brings with it a nuanced spectrum of political perspectives. In the umbrella of “democratic socialism”, there are those who take refuge in the umbrella of “democratic socialism”, from well-meaning figures who defend an enabling program, limited to the rescue of social improvements already experienced in the New Deal of the 1930s, to those who advocate the strengthening of a wing in the Democratic Party in order to convert it (for example, Bernie Sanders), to those who seek to make an alternative independent pole viable, such as the DSA, the Our Revolution, the Family Workers and other groups. The numerous nominations that emerged fall within this spectrum. Obviously, there are also those who temporarily wear the repugnant T-shirt of socialism for the sake of pure electoral convenience. Apart from this wide range, there are also abstentionist groups that minimize the importance of accumulating forces in elections, losing opportunities to solidify a counter-hegemonic force.

The growth of a Left with a daring platform and interests linked to the working class seems to be irrefutable. It is therefore necessary to discuss more and more the directions that the protagonists of this historic moment must take from now on. In the same way that the possibilities of building a mass alternative are immense, the risks of accommodation by this vanguard to the parliamentary and pro-Democratic machinery are not negligible either. It is necessary to be permanently vigilant against a situation of eternal coexistence with the progressive centre within the Democratic Party. In the end, the system always reserves a small, comfortable space for those who are willing to play a critical role in it.

Once these considerations have been made, from the point of view of internationalist revolutionaries, the feeling that must prevail at this stage of the flourishing of a new left at the heart of world capitalism is one of enthusiastic support and passionate interest for this historic moment. With all its particularities, the consolidation of Sanders and the DSA came to join other signs of the world left (Corbyn in the United Kingdom, Podemos in Spain, HDP in Turkey, MNP in Peru, Frente Amplio in Chile, Gustavo Petro in Colombia, to cite a few examples) that make up the international development of a new process of accumulation of counter-hegemonic forces, where revolutionaries need to be in order to promote a pole that disputes the strategic directions of these movements towards the rupture with rotten political regimes and with a mode of production that no longer has much to offer to the progress of humanity.

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Writing office

  • Pedro Fuentes
  • Bernardo Corrêa
  • Charles Rosa
  • Clara Baeder